TR: Hoover Wilderness, Whorl Mtn, Oct. 26-29 2020

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CAMERONM
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TR: Hoover Wilderness, Whorl Mtn, Oct. 26-29 2020

Post by CAMERONM » Wed Nov 18, 2020 9:26 pm

NOTE: This is an abridged version of more extensive report at: https://www.trailnamebackstroke.com/hoo ... l-mountain
The multiple raging fires prevent access to the entire Sierra area for many weeks. After several cancelled permits I have almost given up hope of another Sierra trip when Paul contacts me about making a 4-day hike in the Hoover Wilderness which has just reopened. We sit out a Sunday storm and meet in Bridgeport early Monday morning. I have met Paul twice in the Wilderness while doing the SHR (Sierra High Route), and we cross paths on a few websites, but otherwise we do not know each other. Paul outlines a few alternate paths on Caltopo and we agree to wing it once we start. He has an interest in going cross-country in order to see an amazing climbing rock called The Incredible Hulk, wants to get some good views of the Sawtooth Ridge, and proposes a few peaks we might climb.
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We start from Twin Lakes. We are prepared for cold with a predicted wind-chill factor hovering around 12 F, but today is not quite so bad.
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The Incredible Hulk comes into view and it is indeed remarkable, a sort of knife edge version of the well-known Whaleback in Sequoia. There is a video of Emily Harrington & Alex Honnold climbing the “Solar Flare” route (5.12d). My iPhone camera cooperates with accidental lens flare to heighten the drama of the shot. For scale, Paul can be seen in the lower middle right side on a path.
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The water tells the story of very cold air. We are uncertain if water sources are flowing or frozen and I bring extra fuel in case we only find ice. Fortunately there are plenty of small but flowing trickles.
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We cross over the pass and descend into the far end of Slide Canyon to get the first glimpse of the Sawtooth Ridge. It is cold and windy and we keep going until we find water and tree cover. Morning arrives and we get another view of the Sawtooth. It only drops to 27 F during the night so our sleep systems perform well.
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We reach the top of Stanton Pass to get a view of the southern end of the Sawtooth Ridge, including Whorl Mountain (12,039 ft/ 3670 m) in the center and Matterhorn Peak on the far right. We agree that Whorl looks gnarly as we are considering whether to make a run on it the next day. The skies stay clear of smoke from the nearby Creek fire and it feels like a beautiful late-September day, not late October. For me, a perfect day.
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The full moon appears dramatically on the ridgeline. I am impressed with the camera of my new iPhone 11 Pro.
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The next morning we decide to climb Whorl after all and drop our packs along the route back to the pass. Paul takes off ahead and I don't see him again as he is in a hurry to complete the trip and return home tonight. I arrive at the famous chockstone “entrance”, which is the start of a truly wild path to the top where one must shimmy through a cave of rocks, along ledges and through narrow passages.
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View north to Matterhorn and the Sawtooth Range.
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This Google Earth view shows my path up the conventional zig-zagging SE route, and then straight down the chute under the chockstone. At the top near the chockstone it is the usual Class 2 nasty sliding rocks and sand, but on the way down in the middle I hit many five to twenty foot drops that require difficult Class 3++ climbing moves. The rock is firm and gritty so friction and small handholds carry the day, but for anyone not comfortable with slightly exposed difficult climbing and without ropes I really don’t recommend this route down. There were several places where if the drop had been fifty feet I might have hesitated.

Nice conclusion to a good trip. We timed it just right, entering the wilderness just as Hoover opened up and one week before the first serious snow event.I did not see anyone else the entire time, which is remarkable but not unusual in the Sierra.
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Last edited by CAMERONM on Thu Nov 19, 2020 11:17 am, edited 1 time in total.








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Harlen
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Re: TR: Hoover Wilderness, Whorl Mtn, Oct. 26-29 2020

Post by Harlen » Wed Nov 18, 2020 11:36 pm

Congratulations Cameron on a really nice route, climb, and Trip Report. I think all of the photos are very fine, and the one of the Hulk is my favorite. Did you see many people on your route? I've done a similar route, and remember seeing no one until the brief PCT section, and then saw about 25 backpackers and horse packers seemingly all at once. Any bears? Thanks for putting this report together, Ian.

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Re: TR: Hoover Wilderness, Whorl Mtn, Oct. 26-29 2020

Post by The Other Tom » Thu Nov 19, 2020 5:48 am

Great photos, thanks. Loved the moon pic.

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Re: TR: Hoover Wilderness, Whorl Mtn, Oct. 26-29 2020

Post by Harlen » Thu Nov 19, 2020 3:15 pm

Hey Cameron,
Now that I have checked out the additional photos and writing in your blog post of this trip, I really want to climb Whorl! What an interesting route at the top, with the tunnels and that squeeze between pillars. I think the views from up there are very nice too. I gather that your partner shot off home alone from the climb? Interesting choice of a place to separate. Having only followed your pace, I find it hard to imagine you slowing anyone down. Anyhow, it was a great trip among many of yours; couldn't help checking out some others on the blog-- Glacier NP/Waterton Lakes NP is fantastic!

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Re: TR: Hoover Wilderness, Whorl Mtn, Oct. 26-29 2020

Post by commonloon » Thu Nov 19, 2020 3:47 pm

Harlen wrote:
Thu Nov 19, 2020 3:15 pm
Hey Cameron,
Now that I have checked out the additional photos and writing in your blog post of this trip, I really want to climb Whorl! What an interesting route at the top, with the tunnels and that squeeze between pillars. I think the views from up there are very nice too. I gather that your partner shot off home alone from the climb? Interesting choice of a place to separate. Having only followed your pace, I find it hard to imagine you slowing anyone down. Anyhow, it was a great trip among many of yours; couldn't help checking out some others on the blog-- Glacier NP/Waterton Lakes NP is fantastic!
Hey Harlen,

I'm going to post a little follow up soon... got busy with work so its a little slow in coming. WHorl is really cool, you'll enjoy it. No bears whatsoever; they were smarter (and warmer) than us walkers ;-)

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Re: TR: Hoover Wilderness, Whorl Mtn, Oct. 26-29 2020

Post by frozenintime » Thu Nov 19, 2020 5:10 pm

nice! i did a similar albeit less ambitious trip up little slide and beyond the weekend before you guys.

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Re: TR: Hoover Wilderness, Whorl Mtn, Oct. 26-29 2020

Post by Harlen » Thu Nov 19, 2020 6:47 pm

commonloon wrote,
Whorl is really cool, you'll enjoy it. No bears whatsoever; they were smarter (and warmer) than us walkers
Okay Paul... Oh, are you the "Paul" of the Cameron Whorlwind trip? That explains someone managing to pull away from him, weren't you the one shooting for the FKT for the High Route until you blew a tire or something? Plus, we're a lot older than you.

Thanks for the additional push towards Whorl Mountain, although your mentioning the lack of bears works in the opposite direction for me.

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Re: TR: Hoover Wilderness, Whorl Mtn, Oct. 26-29 2020

Post by CAMERONM » Thu Nov 19, 2020 8:58 pm

Paul: "You know that I raced competitive cycling for twenty years, right?"
Me: "No Paul I did not know that, but I never did and never will wear those silly cycling shorts, and what you see is what you get. I move at my own slow-ass pace up the hill in due time, but that's about it."
Paul: "Well you are in good shape........for a backpacker."

Paul never did reach the summit. He can explain. Maybe.

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Re: TR: Hoover Wilderness, Whorl Mtn, Oct. 26-29 2020

Post by commonloon » Thu Nov 19, 2020 10:08 pm

@CAMERONM LoL. Did I really qualify that with "For a backpacker?" I truly meant I was impressed with your fitness. When you explained you training method, I thought to myself "That's pretty hard core."

@Harlen Ya, that guy. I may give the FKT another go in 2021. ;-)

@frozenintime Awesome! What a great time of year right.

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Re: TR: Hoover Wilderness, Whorl Mtn, Oct. 26-29 2020

Post by commonloon » Thu Nov 19, 2020 10:47 pm

Thanks for posting @CAMERONM . It was great to finally hike with you instead of bumping into you on the SHR.

Consider what follows as a bit of an addendum...

Like Cameron, I had been at home watching the fires, smoke and permit situation hoping for things to get better so I could squeeze in a fall trip. It was a long wait. When things did get better it was a bit of rush to put a trip together. But it was a make it happen sort of moment.

I chose to alpine start and drive over in the wee hours. At the top of Sonora pass where the PCT crosses, I looked down at my car's outside air temperature display. OMG, I hope there is some extra wind chill going on. -3F. I stopped, waited a couple of minutes and snapped a photo. 1F. After getting home and looking at a wind chill chart, it seems like it was probably about 10F to 15F sans the wind chill. This was as the Mono Winds were raging.

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I met up with Cameron at the Bridgeport Ranger station, got a self-issue permit and headed out to Twin Lakes. While in the summer Twin Lakes is bustling with RVs, fishermen and hikers, it was relatively uncrowded. Hiking out to Little Slide Canyon the trail was empty. Some fall colors but it was obvious we were a week or two late for that. Still fall is so awesome in the Sierra!

We started up Little Slide Canyon near where the creeks meet. Bushwacking our way up. As the terrain started to open up, we spotted a nice use trail on the east side of the creek and picked it up there. It crossed back to the west one more time then back along the east side of the canyon near The Incredible Hulk. Wow. I've added it to my bucket list of climbs I'd like to do.

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We got a side little tracked as Cameron talks about. We looked at the topo and said this looks like the best route. Ended up cliffing out and had to backtrack. Stay left (east) after The Incredible Hulk is the take away.

Over Ice Lake Pass and walked until we descended a bit into the trees where we found a couple of spots for our shelters.

Listening to the wind that 1st night during the wind storm was pretty incredible: hearing an approaching gust for what seemed like minutes before it hit and shook the trees around our camp. I drank some great bourbon and sleep well nonetheless.

Sawtooth 2020 Oct - 1 of 1 (2).jpeg

The next day we walked over Burro Pass with fantastic views of the Sawtooth ridge. Truly awesome alpine walking.

The 2nd night we camped near where Return and McCabe creeks meet. In the morning, before my coffee, I was walking around when I stepped on what seemed like solid ground, and I broke a little ice crust and felt my right foot sink in water and mud. While extracting my right foot, the left does the same thing. Wet feet. Temps are still below freezing. I take my shoes and socks off, hang the shoes and put on some new socks. Fast forward, after coffee and breakfast, I break camp and attempt to put my shoes back on. The next few minutes are spent sitting on a log hammering my shoes against the same log softening up my now completely frozen shoes! I finally get them on and warn Cameron that I'm going to power hike a bit to make myself into a heater to counteract my cold feet. We'll meet up on trail before going cross country for a section of the SIerra High Route.

We go over Stanton Pass and head down into the valley below. We had talked about maybe doing Virginia Peak or Whorl Mountain today but we are just a little late for that, so we made camp. We talk about possibly climbing tomorrow. A downside of having an inReach is you can receive txt from home. I'm needed at home. Whorl is such a cool looking mountain. I do want to climb it, but...

We decide to give Whorl mountain a go in the morning. We end up splitting up with me just ahead of Cameron. I end up missing the ledge system that is the "route" where I should have turned right. I top out on the ridge, doing a bit of class 4+, trying to find the route that is now just a bit below me. I do manage to make it to the west side of the mountain, walking on a ledge trying to find a way up. No deal. I reverse my route, down climb and by the time I'm back to where I think I made my mistake, I'm thinking I've got to get the heck out of here or I may be walking back near dark.

Sawtooth 2020 Oct - 1 of 1 (3).jpeg

The hike back to the car is a jumbled mess of talus, boulders and use-trails. Horse Creek Pass always makes me think of the game Jenga.  I'm already thinking damn that was too short a trip on the drive home.
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